This Is Your 30 Day Healing Challenge—It’s Time To Move On And Let Go For Good

To be adapted and repeated for as long and as often as needed. It’s your journey – how you take it is entirely up to you.

Day 1: Name Your Pain

Take your time with that one, and be extremely specific. Don’t worry if you have to start a few times over if you have to tear out pages and cover them with ink blotches and arrows. The main point is to have your story out, for you to have a name for what causes you anguish. “The thing that happened in high school” is too big and nebulous to move on from; “letting go of the voices of my bullies”, on the other hand, is something to work with.

Day 2: Set Your Intentions

Try to whittle it down to a single sentence, but if you need more space, that’s fine too. At this point, you’ve been living with this pain enough to be sick of it. You know that letting go of it will have a positive impact on your life. Write down what it is that you want to let go of and why, then stick it somewhere you will see it every day: Your fridge, your night table, the front cover of your journal; set it as your desktop, your screensaver, set an automatic email to come to you every morning, whatever works. Just make sure you have a regular reminder of why you’re doing this and what you are letting go of.

Day 3-5: Take Stock

There’s probably a tonne of things in your life that remind you of whatever it is you’re trying to move on from. Some of it may be obvious – here’s that knick-knack she got me, or this picture from a tournament he took me to – some of it may be less so, like how hard you work to please everyone. Reminders of a person, or an event, may come tumbling in front of you like dusty candy in a coat pocket for weeks to come – what’s important now is to figure out where the bulk of it is. Think of it as a scavenger hunt, and make a list of all the reminders in your life – take a few days to comb through your house, your car, and finally, your habits, and locate those dusty candies so that you’re ready for the next step.

Day 6: Enlist Help

Find your meanest friend – the one who liked him the least, or the one who told you she did not deserve you – and tell them what you’re doing. Be specific – use your script from day 2 if you have to. “I’m on a mission to reclaim my (head)space so that I can finally direct my energies onto healing. Will you help?” You don’t have to scream it from the rooftops or round up your whole coterie – at this stage, you need only one or two people. What is important is this: They need to love you, and they need to be merciless.

Day 7-8: Purge Your Physical Space

If there was ever a perfect excuse to do the full Marie Kondo, this is it. Have your mean friends on hand, put on some appropriate music (fun fact: according to Bruce Dickinson’s biography, Iron Maiden never released a proper love song) and then let the recycling extravaganza begin. If you can’t bring yourself to throw physical mementos away, stick them in a box for your friends to store (where you have no access), or put it in a donations bin. Don’t let yourself ruminate – the only questions you need to ask are: “Can this be used by another human being?” And, occasionally, “Would I need this in the future?” (Think Legal documents and professional qualifications.) Your friends will help give you a reality check – you don’t need to throw away a teddy bear if someone else can use it, but you equally don’t need to shred your Masters Degree if it reminds you of your controlling relative.

Day 9: The Dust Bunnies Will Run For Their Lives

Fact: tidying up makes a mess. Take this time to clean up your home, launder your clothes, scrub the toilet, banish the old spices from your cupboards, the works. Can you do that the previous two days? Sure. But I would advise against it. Firstly, your friends came to banish the ghosts from your head, not the grease stains from the kitchen, which is arguably not as fun. Secondly, being alone in a newly tidied house can make you antsy. No better way to get rid of that extra energy than to dust every nook and cranny of your home, and sending the dust bunnies running.

Day 10: Make Two Lists

Grab a piece of paper. On one side, write down a list of “Things that drove you up the wall about (the thing you want to move on from)”. On the other, write a bunch of thoughts, people, and activities that you liked, and that the person you’re healing after would absolutely DESPISE. Pick three things from the second list and research the ones nearest to you. What are they about? How much effort would they require? How much do they cost?

Day 11: Make A Plan

Pick one of the three things you researched the previous day and make a plan to do it within the week. Commit to it – pick up the phone, put down the card detail, ask your mean friend to take you there under pain of social media roasting. Be mindful of your budget, of course, as well as how much energy you can spare after work and helping your loved ones. But also, you need new passions in your life. If you feel hesitant, remember the first list you made yesterday, and remember that this is something purely for you.

Day 12-14: Adulting Stuff

Chances are if your mind and soul is hurting, your body wasn’t doing too great either. Are you getting enough sleep? Are you eating food that you find delicious? Have you got the bills and budget down pat, so that you don’t have to scramble to pay anything at the end of the month? Run through those things while you’re still on a high from doing the thing the person who hurt you would hate so that you can tick off all you procrastinate over. Dentist checks? Doctor checks? Nobody loves them, but get them done as much as possible now so that you can have 12 months of not having to worry about it.

Day 15: Forecast Of An Emotional Storm

It’s been two weeks since the challenge started, and you’ve accomplished so much! You wanna pat yourself on the back, except… your dentist found a cavity, or you pap smear was due, and even though everything went off without a hitch and you are fine now, you’re probably feeling a little bit raw. You can’t find your favorite comfy sweater and you remember it was a gift from That Person, and it just reminds you how kind and comforting they were, and why did you bother in the first place…

You may want to be mean to yourself, or else call the whole project off. What I’d like to invite you to do instead is putting your phone away and letting yourself have a nice, big cry about it. (Or shout and punch a pillow. Or turn up your music and scream along to Lorde. Whatever mood strikes you.) Take as long as you need, until the emotion has spent itself.

Day 16: Read Back Your Intentions

The previous day might have left you with an emotional (and a real) hangover. For recovery, take your story from day 1, and your intention from day 2. Reread both, taking your time to let the words sink in. Notice the anguish in your voice, the difficulty in writing the words. Cry a bit again, if you have to.

Here’s the tea: chances are, it was not all that bad. It’s human to feel sad, to remember the good times, to wonder if you weren’t the one in the wrong after all. Times like these, it’s okay to feel sad; but it’s also important to remember exactly why you needed to get away, to let go, and to heal. Specificity helps us parse out the good from the bad; it lets us acknowledge the happy times existed AS WELL as the bad ones. It’s not either/or: it was both, and the bad stuff made you want to leave.

Day 17: Make Another List

Write out a list of your achievements. Then write out a list of reasons why you, objectively, achieved them. Think: Master’s Degree – you worked hard, you did your research, you were passionate about the subject, you helped others, etc. Don’t be tempted to editorialize, aka “I only got it because the teacher liked me”. You got it because you worked for it. Make a list and put it near your intentions from Day 2, so that whenever you want to call yourself lazy or stupid, you’ve got a rebuke right there, on your eye level.

Day 18-20: Start Habits That Make You Happy

Remember that activity you tried earlier? On day 11 even? Did you like it? Did you want to do it again? If not, what would you like to do instead? What would make you excited to get out of bed in the morning? Starting new habits, hobbies, or re-focusing your energy on things that you were passionate about but let go of; these are all ways for you to remind yourself of your own power.

Day 21: Check In With Your Friends

Your mean friends may want to get rid of the stuff they stored for you, but they likely won’t until you say so. Have a nice catch-up, a roast, or just a day/night out with friends. Check in with yourself after that night is over – how do you feel now that you’re starting new things and looking after your body? How does spending time with your people feel like? Do you want to do more?

Day 22-23: Rescind Your Invitation To Emotional Vampires

By now, you’re probably seeing glimpses of your old self. Depending on how much time has passed, you’re either taking baby steps forward, or you are repeating self-healing steps that helped you in the past, and you are coming into your superpowers. Time to examine your friend group: Who are your allies in your quest for healing? Who are suddenly disinterested in you, now that you’re no longer miserable? Are they happy to see you improve, or are they forcing you to remember bad times?

In the past, you may have held onto the wishy-washy and the jerks because you had no-one else. Or, maybe they were just okay, but now you see you just hang out because of habit. Either way – there’s no harm in seeing people you like one-to-one, and “losing” the numbers of those you don’t.

Day 24: Cloudy With A Chance Of Boredom

Most self-healing is done quietly, alongside your daily life. You go to work, you come home. You fix the same food you always have, do the same things to unwind. Once the drama of the initial few days has settled and you have made self-asserting boundaries part of daily practice, you’ll find life becoming routine… even boring.

Remember: boredom is good. Boredom means the worst of your worries can be taken care of later, and that you are no longer living in a constant state of crisis. Yes, it’s not nearly as exciting, but it’s also self-protective and self-loving.

Day 25: Brace Yourself For A Surprise Storm

Remember those dust candies tumbling out of pockets? Or those emotional vampires you just banished? There’s a chance a few of them might pop out: a song comes onto your playlist that you forgot to purge, or some “friend” lets your ex have your new phone “accidentally”. Have your mean friends’ on speed dial, or plan for a few extra new and exciting things to do. Or clean up your house again, or run one more mile… whatever works to keep you occupied until the urge to call back has passed. Check-in with your intentions if you have to.

Day 26: Acknowledge You Got Through

So you survived the storm. Even if you gave in and returned the call, met the person for a drink, ate whatever shit they served you… you’re here. You may be rattled, but you got through. Meanwhile, if you didn’t give in, you may be wondering if it was a fluke. Pat yourself in the back either way. Your worst nightmare may be to return to the bad situation, but as long as you are here today, there is hope. Remind yourself that you are human, apologize if you have to, and resolve to keep doing the right thing. Next time, you’ll know better.

Day 27: Two Final Lists For You

Remember how tempted you were to ruminate about Those Good Times? Now you have a chance to – write down all the good about the person and the situation, or what you perceived to be good about it. Be specific. Once that’s done, turn the page. List out all the good that wasn’t there, but that you wanted to have, that you wish you can have. Take as long as you need, and be as extravagant as you want.

The first list is what you got out of the bad situation, the stuff that kept you stuck. The second list is what you want, what you could have ON TOP of the good stuff from before… but without all the bad.

Day 28: Allow A Private Moment Of Grace

Maybe you’re still feeling dubious or rattled. Maybe you think that your perception of the situation was wrong, or at the very least you need to acknowledge the good that the other person did for you. This day is your permission to do it – in PRIVATE.

Write a letter, listing out all those good things the other person did, and thank them for the ones they genuinely, honestly did to help you. What this means is, don’t thank them for every gift that came with strings, or the stuff that they did because it reflected well on them. Don’t thank them for supporting your studies if they constantly rubbed it in your face, or for raising your kids if they used that as a justification to cheat.

Thank them for the true moments of selflessness, for the honesty, for the support. You may still end up with a nice letter, but chances are, it will be a lot shorter than you think. Once you’re done, stick it in a drawer and don’t send it. Like with other times you exerted a special effort, the recipient is likely not to appreciate it as much as you would.

Day 29: Put It All Together

The lists, the letters, the intentions, the story. Put it in one place and look at it as a whole. The “good” list that seems excessive compared to the things that actually merited thanks; the qualities you undermined in yourself, the dreams you set aside while you settled for crumbs; the nonsense you tolerated and that you will not miss. What you have is a roadmap to the future – it’s not foolproof or anything like that, but it’s a start. You know what you want, what you need, what you deserve; what you won’t settle for, what is worthy of gratitude, and what is just a gift with strings attached. Smile. You know yourself better now.

Day 30: Keep Going

Writing your future happens every day. Sometimes you will have to repeat old steps, just to remind yourself of your power. Some things might set you back – that’s okay. The important bit is to keep going, to work hard, and to resolve to always do better.

You’ve got what it takes to move on and heal. Don’t stop.

Don’t ever stop.

Just A Reminder: You Will Be Okay

Say it out loud: This too shall pass.

Because it always does. The heartache, the pain, the sadness. It will always pass if you give it enough time. Time is something that sometimes we do not allow ourselves. We want to rush things, we want to control the outcome of situations and then dictate how things move forward. Our human nature lacks patience but has an abundance of desire of wanting to be the one to decide which way everything should flow. We don’t want to admit it, yet we all crave control and at times we all refuse to accept that we will never fully have it. Life is too unpredictable. Deciding when and how to move forward is something we do have control of, but we will never have control over time.

We’ve all heard it before, but struggle is temporary, even though sometimes it feels like it lasts a lifetime. We’ve all been faced with moments where we’re told not to dwell in our struggle, not to let it get us down. When we are in those dark moments, we can find it difficult to really see beyond the current suffering. But the struggle truly is temporary… the challenging part is understanding that the depth of “temporary” varies in each case.

When you face darkness in your life, no matter the situation, you have the choice on how you move through and forward from that darkness. You possess the power to choose your happy, choose your method of survival, choose how you overcome. This is not to say that you will not suffer, but to remind you that amidst the current suffrage you always have a choice. Do not allow yourself to become a victim to circumstance. You are so much more than your circumstances. You are so much more than the variables of life.

My wish for you is to understand that a life without struggle does not truly exist, no matter how things may sometimes seem. We show others what we want them to see, we share the moments of our lives that we want to share. We don’t always express our thoughts, our worries, our internal battles. But please always remember that no matter the circumstances you face and how trying times may get, the truth remains that you will be okay. 

Give yourself the gift of allowing your life to be rich with experiences. You will face battles and you will choose how to get through them. You will decide how you can move forward, despite the obstacles in your path. And you will come out on the other side, confident that you made the right choices, even if they took you down alternate paths. Remembering that each path taken is a path that you will learn from. Every twist and turn will teach you about the person you are and the person you are becoming. There is never a lack of opportunity if you are willing to grow. Don’t be like those unwilling to change, don’t be like those who close themselves off to new experiences. Instead, choose growth, which is something that needs to be welcomed and sought after. Personal growth comes through struggle and grief just as much as it comes through triumph and joy. Allow yourself the gift of growth, allow yourself to be present in each moment, good or bad. Allow yourself to be here now, and I promise you that through it all, you will be okay.

I No Longer Have The Energy To Fight For Things

I no longer have the energy to fight for things. I no longer have the energy to hold on tightly and try to fix what’s broken. I no longer have the energy to mend what I didn’t break. I no longer have the energy to keep asking for what I want if my requests have been previously denied. I no longer have the energy to be calm around those who tick me off or be understanding with those who don’t consider my feelings. I no longer have the energy to be generous with selfish people or waste my time with someone who’s stingy with theirs.

I no longer have the energy to wait for people. I have learned that those who want something always find a way to do it. They don’t let anything get in the way but those who don’t will always find a way to delay it. I no longer have the energy to blame things on timing instead of people. I no longer have the energy to lie to myself.

I’ve always been a firm believer in fighting for the things you want and I still am but I’ve realized that there are a few exceptions. You can’t fight for things you’ve already fought for a thousand times before. You can’t fight for people who aren’t fighting for you. You can’t fight for things that are not yours. You can’t fight for things that keep getting blocked for some divine reason and you can’t fight for things that could destroy you. You can’t fight for things that you need to stay away from.

I no longer have the energy to spend my time fighting. Yes sometimes it’s necessary but that can’t be what my life is about because I’ve seen the other side of things, the things that kind of fall into your lap effortlessly and seamlessly without any fight. The things that kind of blend in perfectly with who you are and what you believe in. The timing that doesn’t get in the way. The circumstances that are perfectly aligned with yours. The people who don’t drive you crazy with mixed signals and confusing behavior. The things that just come into your life and bring you peace, joy and stability.

I’ve seen the other side and it’s much simpler over there. It feels safe. It feels good. Sometimes we get used to a difficult life and we think that we have to spend the rest of our lives fighting battles and trying to ‘win’ but other times we get tired of this life and we just gravitate towards a simpler one without any battles, without any losing or winning because things just make happen organically. Things flow smoothly when everyone is on the same page.

I no longer have the energy to fight for anyone but myself.

Sometimes God Uses The Tough Moments To Bring Us Back To Him

I wish I knew why bad things had to happen. Why it feels like we reach a certain point and then fall. Why we’re so happy one second, and the next feel like we’re spiraling down, like there’s nowhere else to go but lower and lower. I wish I knew how to come to terms with brokenness, how to release pain and find some kind of healing. How to be someone who lets burdens fall off her back and walk with the hope that no matter what happens, she will be okay.

But being that kind of woman is hard. Being that kind of person is hard. Life is hard. And no matter what beauty we try to cultivate, what joy we try to bring, what peace we let seep into our lives and the lives of others, this world will bring us storms and pain.

I wish it didn’t happen that way. I wish we could just be good and have good things come to us. I wish we could love and laugh and never experience loneliness, or heartbreak, or death, or closed doors. But the steps we take are a part of this imperfect journey. We are humans navigating this sinful earth, searching and finding our way. We are not meant to live lives that never change, never break, never grow, never rebuild.

We are supposed to experience things that hurt—to shape us, to teach us, to help us value what we do have, to bring us closer to ourselves, to the people around us, to God. And to know that we are never, ever alone.

Sometimes God uses the tough moments to bring us back to Him. Perhaps we’ve lost sight of who we are. Perhaps we’ve been wandering with selfish, empty hearts. Perhaps we’ve been trying to control all that happens with our own two hands, instead of leaning on Him, instead of letting ourselves be led. Perhaps there is no rhyme or reason, but our Father is calling out to us in our pain, begging us to connect with Him.

Sometimes God uses the tough moments to shape our direction. Maybe the road we were on was a terrible one. Maybe we were leaning too deeply on a person who would eventually leave, or chasing love in the wrong places. Maybe we were letting ourselves be the center of the universe, living without true purpose or hope, but all of this disguised by temporary things.

Sometimes God uses the tough moments to teach us. That we do not have to exist here on our own. That we should never carry burdens without help. That we are infinitely valuable, even when we don’t believe or see this worth.

We tend to have this perspective on life that we’ll achieve perfection if we just try harder, love deeper, give more. But no matter what we do, or say, or how passionately we share ourselves with others, bad things are inevitable. And that is not to say that being a good person is not worth it, but to remind us that escaping from pain is impossible—and yet we still have hope—in our Father’s love.

Pain will happen, but feeling alone and weak and empty doesn’t have to. Because Jesus has carried our pain for us; all we must do is accept this love and walk in His ways.

Sometimes we’ll have moments where everything feels off, where nothing is right, where we’re spinning in circles, dizzy and confused. We’ll want to quit. We’ll want to run. We’ll want to chase anything that makes us feel light, even for a moment. We’ll put our hearts into temporary things, hoping to be filled.

But the truth of God’s love is that He longs to fill us. He wants to give us peace where there’s chaos, joy where there’s exhaustion, healing where there’s brokenness. He wants to help us begin again, find our footing, continue forward in the wake of what’s gone wrong.

He longs to bring us back to Him, to hope again.

Sometimes God uses the tough moments to reveal His unconditional love. A promise that even when the world fails, when we fall, when things change or break or get destroyed, He is here. And never leaving.

Sometimes God uses the tough moments to show us that we will be okay. It just takes time, trust, and faith.

All things pass, but His love remains. 

Why Trauma Survivors Can’t Just ‘Let It Go’

It seems the deeper I journey into the healing and recovery process, the more I find that much of our cultural and conventional wisdom does not help trauma survivors. All the trite platitudes and sayings that might help someone having a garden-variety bad day can actually become giant triggers for someone living with trauma.

Let’s assume everyone wants to live a healthy, pain-free, abundant and productive life. There are hundreds of motivational books and centered on “fake it ’til you make it” principles, which encourage people to “think positive,” “let it go,” “don’t sweat the small stuff,” etc. They may have helped some people. Judging by book sales, they have probably helped many. Yet, for many trauma survivors searching for relief, these books and motivational coaches don’t help. In fact, many, like myself, feel more depressed, broken and impossibly disconnected after reading them. Here’s why.

Trauma survivors are often highly motivated people. Many are conditioned to be hyper-aware and hyper-vigilant out of survival. They are often overly critical of themselves because they were held to impossible standards by their abusers, and their attempts to please them often went sour. Some become overachievers, yet never feel like what they achieve is enough. Because nothing is ever good enough to appease an abuser, some survivors give up trying, becoming the self-fulfilling prophecy of whatever their abusers told them they were. Many survivors internalize that they are “lazy” when it’s not a lack of motivation that keeps them from their goals, it’s trauma. Trauma causes the nervous system to fight, flee or freeze, and for many survivors, their bodies are either stuck in one of these, or alternate between the three. Holding this pattern together is a web of toxic shame that is extremely difficult to break. Think of a race car stuck in first gear, with a foot on the gas and a foot on the break. That’s how many survivors get around.

To a survivor, telling them to “think positive” sounds cruel. I mean, that’s exactly the problem for anyone recovering from any type of abuse. Their thoughts were hijacked by someone else, and now they are fighting for their sanity to get their own thoughts back. And it’s not just their brain that was taken over. Emotional trauma gets hardwired into the physical body. Not only does it cause mental anguish, it creates a lot of physical pain, which can sometimes morph into serious long-term disease. Doctors and scientists are currently making great strides in connecting the dots between trauma and disease, but the general public is years behind in understanding and accepting this reality.

“Positive thinking” shields the reality that sometimes people feel shitty. In order to heal, survivors need to let down their shield and feel their feelings.

Here’s the other problem when a trauma survivor feels pressure to “think positive.” Often, for a survivor, this can sound like it’s not OK to feel whatever they are feeling, so they stuff it away, often relegating it to the subconscious. Trauma survivors are experts at burying their feelings. But burying feelings doesn’t mean the pain goes away, it means the survivor is less able to access what they need in order to heal. Many survivors experience dissociation. Dissociation is a common coping mechanism that needs to be broken by actually facing the terrible thing that caused so much terror that mentally “going away” was the only option.

Similarly, minimization plays a huge role in coping, either by the survivor or the people around them. Usually, it’s both. “It’s not that bad, ” or “It’s not as bad as X has it…” is not only a huge roadblock to recovery, it’s a road block to being aware of the trauma in the first place.  So, when a survivor decides not to “sweat the small stuff,” the small stuff turns into a giant, insurmountable mountain of shutdown feelings and emotions. Getting into a pattern of not speaking up, whether to keep the peace or to avoid uncomfortable emotions means more skeletons for the pile in the subconscious mind.

Survivors need to pay attention to the small stuff.

Here’s another one. “Just let it go.” If only it were so simple. If survivors could, they would gladly be doing it. While this is actually the end goal for resolving trauma, it often gets waved in front of the trauma survivor’s face like some shiny, magical, yet unattainable talisman. Too many people are trying to let go of trauma they haven’t yet fully grasped. To let go of something means you need to be aware that you’re holding it in the first place. Trauma that is stored in the locked closets and cupboards of the subconscious mind continue to control from within, often without the survivor fully understanding what’s happening. The process of letting go can’t happen until those things are dragged into the light and fully processed. Once again, that means feeling uncomfortable feelings. It means grieving. It means giving yourself the kind care and attention that no one else did. Sometimes, it means wallowing for a little while. The harsh inner-critic of a survivor usually doesn’t allow this for very long. It means sending the critic away. It means bringing all of our subconscious thoughts into our conscious awareness to objectively take stock of what we’re working with.

So, next time you feel compelled to encourage someone to “let it go,” don’t. Instead, see if you can encourage them to lean in to whatever it is and feel it. Letting go will happen in its own time. That is, if you allow them to give their brain and body what it needs to heal.

This Is Me Trying

I am far from complete. I am an unfinished manuscript, collecting dust on a forgotten shelf. I am merely half a canvas, splattered paint that is yet to be a masterpiece. And that’s okay with me. Why would I want to be complete? That would mean the world was done with me.

I have not been sculpted to perfection yet, my fine details are still to be sketched. I would not want to rush the process of perfection, I do not wish for my metamorphosis to be instantaneous.

I want the world to take its time with me. Mold my soul with patience and attentiveness, Lead me to walk through darkness when I am convinced there is no light. Teach me lessons that will shape me into the final version of who I am to be.

I care very little for immediate perfection. I know that society is obsessed with getting it right from the start and I am sorry if I come across as self-righteous, but you’re wrong.

Life is about living. Living is about trying. Trying and learning; never failing. Failing suggests that nothing came of it. There is always a purpose, always a lesson to be learned. This obsession with perfection will only cause you pain; I speak from experience. I, too, wanted everything, now. I almost demanded it, trying to manifest it at my feet. But that is not how this works. If you believe that is the unquestionable truth, you will not live. Seeing lessons as failures will only fill your life with frustration and misery. Perfection is only attainable when our manuscripts are complete. Perfection is within that finished masterpiece.

To live is to try. Those lessons you see as imperfections, they are the words that fill your manuscripts and the brush strokes that create your masterpiece. Trying is the meaning of life. Because we are human. Humans are not perfect. We are never always right and mistakes are what make us individuals.

Your soul is a constellation of imperfections. Imperfections that resulted from a lifetime of trying.

And maybe perfection is not attainable when we reach our conclusions; not in the way you believe perfection to be. Perfection is when you have learned and absorbed every possible thing that life had to offer you. Perfection is closing your eyes for the final time, accumulating every imperfection you collected over the years. Perfection is having spent a lifetime trying.

This is me being dedicated to trying. Trying to learn from those sweet imperfections I am committed to loving. This is me trying to enjoy the process of my chapters being written. This is me trying to live.

The 8 Most Helpful Things I’ve Learned In Therapy Thus Far

1. The hardest part is taking the initiative to go to therapy.

I was weighing going to therapy and talking myself out of it. I felt that at times, I would be doing myself a solid by going to therapy – which I was – and other times felt that I was not good enough or that I couldn’t do therapy. The important thing to realize in my journey of whether to go to therapy is that once I was ready, I knew I was ready. You can’t go to therapy unless you’re ready.

At the time, I was comfortable with weighing whether I wanted to go to therapy or not. The real change slowly started when I finally took the leap.

2. Past traumas shaped me but do not define me.

In therapy, you’re going to learn a lot about yourself. Mannerisms, triggers, and habits could all be a product of past traumas.

The important thing to remember is that past traumas — especially things completely out of your control — do not define who you are. What defines you is who you choose to become.

3. It just helps to have someone thinking logically when I’m thinking emotionally.

I’m an emotionally-driven person and I’ve always been that way. So when something happens, good or bad, I react more with emotion than I do logic. With therapy, I’ve been able to talk through things with my therapist, who not only offers advice for those situations, but also helps me see the logic side of the situation.

4. Self-awareness is key. The conscious thoughts can overpower the negative thoughts.

This kind of piggy-backs off of my last point about being emotional versus logical, but it’s quite valid in me managing my mental health. Through therapy, I learned how to be more self-aware of my thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Because I became self-aware, I was able to notice what was causing my triggers and work from there on how to stop them from happening or diminish the symptoms of my issue. Creating conscious thoughts about your mental health — especially in a time of mental health crisis — is no easy task and requires you to actively learn how to do so so you can better understand what causes triggers for your mental health issues.

5. Being able to talk about “that” freed me.

Until therapy, I didn’t realize how badly I needed to talk about the thing that’s been a weight on my shoulders for years. I feel like there’s one story everyone has that they need to get off of their chest, but they just don’t know how. That was the case with me. I knew there was something that was bugging me for years until I finally had the chance to talk about it and why it made me feel the way it did. I’m gonna tell you now, it felt soooooo good being able to release that weight off of my shoulders. Since I discussed that with my therapist, I’ve literally felt somewhat empowered and free.

6. I wasn’t totally open at first, but that’s okay.

Confidentiality laws, opening up to a stranger, and other housekeeping rules your therapist will tell you is enough to be overwhelming in concern to what you feel safe talking about. Know that you are safe and your therapist is there to help you in the best way possible. Eventually, you’ll feel more comfortable discussing everything that is on your mind. It’s okay if you don’t explain everything just yet.

7. Sometimes it just helps to talk about something that may seem insignificant.

If you’re having an off week because you forgot your keys but you were already out the door or your two dogs work together to wake you up at five in the morning, then you know sometimes some things may just set you off. If you feel like there’s an issue with why something — even small — might be setting you off, it’s okay and actually great to discuss it with your therapist. Something that you might downplay as not that bad might actually be something worth talking about, and it’s better to talk about something small and insignificant than to keep it bottled in.

8. On the contrary, it feels great to discuss when things are going well in your life.

One thing I didn’t really realize about therapy is that it’s not always about discussing heavy, negative situations. You can talk about when things go well in your life, too. It’s supportive and invigorating to let your therapist know what’s going on in your life, good and bad.

I wrote this article not only to share with others what good therapy can do, but also to remind myself how far I’ve come in my mental health journey even in the times it may be difficult. I was super nervous to take the leap at first, and I even thought that my therapist would downplay my issues. That was not the case. My therapist listened each and every time and provided the most helpful tips and tools to help me continue to be mentally healthy. If you’re on the fence about going to therapy yourself, I highly suggest you take the leap like I did.

I Know I’m A Mess—But I Think I’m A Beautiful Mess

I am a cocoon of self-destruction. I am a series of mental-illnesses and negative ideology. Yes, I am chaos. My mind is a bottomless pit that created voices that dictate my life. They remind me, that with every choice that I make, of the worst case scenario and all that could possibly go wrong; they scream it so loud my head rings with their shrill cries-they make it impossible for me to ignore them. They warn me of the outside world. 

They instruct me to lose myself inside my head. Because although it may be a never-ending maze of self pity; no one can hurt me here. So I stay, inside my anxiety-webbed comfort zone where socializing with others is negotiable and the chance of rejection is zero.

My heart, battered and bruised, resembles that of a soldier because my heart has seen so many wars. It has been sewed together by countless surgeons, just to have the seams torn apart by numerous explosions and stabs. My heart and mind work well together; very productive but also catastrophic.

My mind tells my heart that I deserve pain, because clearly the misery within my mind loves company and seeks out misery from the heart. It tells my heart to choose girls who are able to hurt me; girls who emotionally abuse me to the point of suicidal and leave my body jagged with scars. It’s because I deserve it… I don’t deserve happiness. 

I shall trudge in depression and self-loathing because it is all that I know. Happiness is an abstract theory to me. It is as tangible as quantum physics. Yes, I am completely messed up. I am a mess- but I am a beautiful mess. After all, art comes in many shapes and forms; it is simply up to you whether or not to admire it. 

You Don’t Always Have To Be Okay, You Know

Sometimes I am not okay and I used to think it was not okay to be that way. Now I am starting to realize that It’s okay to break down and cry. It’s okay to admit to yourself and to the world that you’re not okay. It’s okay to ask for help and to talk about your problems.

It is so easy to put up a front telling people around you that you are fine when deep within yourself, you know you are not. It is so easy to remain quiet and keep everything to yourself. But that also means you’re hurting yourself way more and that’s not okay.You’re the only person who actually knows what is going on in your own head and you should not be afraid of your own thoughts or about how you feel.

It’s okay to talk about your problems. It doesn’t make you weak. Yes, it makes you vulnerable, but it will also make you stronger.

Sometimes all you would feel is that everything around you is crumbling. It sometimes feels as if you are hit by strong currents or on some days, it feels like you’re being hit by a tsunami. It feels like as if you are drowning. Sometimes it feels like everything around you is happening so fast and you are trying your best not to drown. Sometimes it would feel like your entire vision is clouded by a wrecked storm.

You’re human and it’s important to remember that. It’s important to remember that no matter how strong you are mentally, you’re allowed to have bad days. You’re allowed to cry. But that doesn’t mean you should stay and be stuck in self-pity. Take your time to pick yourself up and glue back the broken pieces. Give yourself time to heal.

It’s okay to voice out to someone. It’s okay to have days when you are not strong. It’s okay to not be okay. 

In Defense of Using Crying as a Coping Mechanism

Sometimes the pain of talking is too overwhelming and the pressure in my chest is just bursting to come forth, and I let it out.

I silently weep.

There are times when talking doesn’t help. When fear just is and finding a friend to rationalize a solution to an unsolvable problem simply generates more angst than staying silent. Talking about the impossible solution creates a sense of shame for feeling anything at all. Ignoring what cannot be solved somehow diminishes a painful experience.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating for wallowing in misery — which is one of my special superpowers. But nor do I advocate ignoring problems just because they can’t be solved. It seems to me that shoving a problem into a metaphorical filing cabinet doesn’t solve the problem — it’s simply shelved for another day. And my access to metaphorical filing cabinets is pretty spasmodic.

I confess to being cowardly in conflict. I don’t do it well. I don’t do it at all. I shroud myself in a suit of patched up armor and hope there’s enough structural integrity left to weather the rain of emotional onslaught, then I stuff that armor into its sturdy little bag and trot home. Away from the intensity of interpersonal conflict where I feel no sense of safety in myself. I need to be alone.

Then I weep.

There is nobody to judge my silent tears. There is no limit to the outpouring of grief and fear — gathering up every unbridled thought and shining a big shiny light on it. Then let it all out, as the saying goes. Ironic as it may seem to others, weeping in my bedroom is an important coping mechanism for me. It’s the place where I validate my fears, shed my tears, then gather up the strength and determination to move on and try to practice acceptance.

Acceptance is — apparently — a willingness to tolerate a difficult situation. Sometimes the head is willing long before the heart. Is that biological? I have absolutely no idea. I know people who find that when life slaps them in the face with the biggest, slimiest fish, they just take a small moment to stare at the fish then move on. I honestly envy these people. When I’m slapped in the face by a fish I spend a lot of time wondering if the fish is OK. But still — in my own steady way, I work towards accepting the lot that life has for me.

For me, acceptance comes after the tear-shedding. Not before. My speedy little brain does flips and spins and slides and turns the impossible into the implausible. A catastrophic catalogue of all the possible outcomes for all the improbable scenarios. And quite honestly — in my personal experience — nobody wants to hear that. I don’t particularly want to hear it myself, but when it’s stuffed in my head it just keeps ballooning until my brain is just oozing chaos and then it’s time to close down and close off.

It’s time to weep.

I’m very bad at letting go and very good at bottling up. Some things just are. This is one of those things.

I’m very bad at letting go of the emotional stuff, but I’m pretty good at the practical stuff. I don’t berate the traffic lights for turning red or curse the traffic for building up. I don’t yell at the sky to wish the rain away or glare at the tide for inconveniencing me. I don’t let financial sparsity spoil the appreciation for how much or what I do have. There is so much in the day-to-day world that I spectacularly appreciate and accept even though that can also come with its own share of difficulties. But so much in the emotional world that takes me time and tears to come to terms with. My loss of identity. The health of the people I love. Stresses in my relationships. Finding purpose in my life. The worries of complete strangers. All these things send me to my weeping bedroom where I need to cathartically cry out every impossible scenario, beg God for forgiveness and fortitude, and slowly — over time — work towards tolerating the seemingly intolerable.

I sense that my way of coping doesn’t make sense to other people. I hear a lot of people telling me to just get over it and don’t worry about things I can’t control. Unfortunately telling someone not to worry does nothing to reduce worry. It simply pushes it down so nobody else can see it. Crying is my catharsis. Silently sobbing where nobody can see is my happy place for being sad. It’s my safe space. When the overwhelm becomes more than I can bear I find a place just for me.

I silently weep and that is OK.